What can science tell us about American history?
What can science tell us about American history?

Long bone with postmortem damage. (Source: Smithsonian Institution)


The popular television series Bones has inspired great interest in forensic anthropology. Doug Owsley and Kari Bruwelheide take you inside the real world of forensic investigations. They lay out their evidence in cases dating from the earliest English settlement in America to modern times. Educator Robert Costello will be on hand to show how one case—a four-hundred-year-old murder mystery—has been adapted into an entertaining “webcomic” for classroom learning.

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Doug Owsley joined the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as a curator in 1987 and has served since 1990 as the Division Head for Physical Anthropology. He is engaged in forensic anthropology case work, assisting state and federal law enforcement agencies on cases such as Jeffrey Dahmer’s first victim, recovery and identification of Waco Branch Davidian compound members, and the Pentagon plane crash. Although his research covers a number of areas, he is currently focused on human skeletal remains from the 17th-century Chesapeake. Owsley received a B.S. from the University of Wyoming and a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee.

Kari Bruwelheide received a B.A. from Luther College and an M.A. in physical anthropology from the University of Nebraska in 1992. Since 1992, she has worked at the Smithsonian as a physical anthropologist, bioarchaeologist, and forensic anthropologist with an emphasis on forensic examination of modern and historic remains including skeletal studies of 17th and 18th-century American colonists, iron coffin burials, and Civil War military remains. She has assisted Doug Owsley with high-profile forensic cases, and her research is currently focused on human skeletal remains found in the Chesapeake region of Virginia and Maryland from the early colonial period.

Robert CostelloRobert Costello uses multimedia products to communicate the relevance of the Museum’s scientific research and collections to the public, and principally to education audiences. He also produces professional development programs for teachers. He has wide-ranging curriculum design experience from twelve years of teaching math and science in secondary and postsecondary institutions and from conducting assessments. He has written on topics in science education, evolutionary biology, and instructional design and taken part in scientific expeditions in the Andes, Rockies, and to the North Atlantic seafloor, where he learned to trust technology. He received a B.A. from Southern Illinois University and an M.A. from Hunter College (CUNY).

  1. Jenny Noel
    6:58 pm on April 13th, 2010

    Can this discussion be viewed later?

    Stevie Engelke Reply:

    Yes, all the sessions are archived. Just click on the “Access Archive” button that you’ll see beside the film reel icon just below the session description.

  2. AnnaElizabeth Wooten
    3:58 am on April 15th, 2010

    I like to read archieves a lot you learn from others and their knowlege. It the proecess of trial and error, you try out an idea till you come to a dead end then you go back and look at what you did and see if you see something that you were missing, you lay it down and go for a walk or go to sleep and wake up freash and you look at it again. You ask someone to go over your notes with you and look at it ahain then you see it were you should go. I love the process. It is so neat to me. Beomg a scientist would be a fun thing to be. I am just a lay person learning all I can.